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Busting the myths

Not everyone sees the benefits of being more energy efficient – and that often comes down to not being fully informed. Certain scare stories persist about energy use, so the experts at Zero Waste Scotland are here with some facts to pass on to clients and colleagues…

Myth: PV panels are no good in winter and shouldn’t be used in Scotland.

This is a cracking one to start with and definitely one of the most frequent myths. Well, newsflash, did you know that Iceland uses solar power, despite having barely 30 minutes of sun a day in December? Even on Scotland’s worst days, we enjoy more sun than that. As long as your panels aren’t covered in snow, you’ll produce power all year round.

Myth: The light from LEDs isn’t as good as a ‘normal’ lamp.

This comment is usually followed by ‘…and they’re too expensive’. What is true is that LEDs are more expensive than a traditional 100w bulb. But – and it’s a big but – they can last up to 20 years in certain conditions. So pound for pound they’re cheaper. But what about the quality of the light? It’s fair to say the early LEDs didn’t provide the ‘right’ sort of light, but technology is always evolving and so many businesses are now making the switch, because it’s an easy win when it comes to being more energy efficient.

Myth: Turning lights on and off uses more electricity than leaving them on.

This is a myth that has been doing the rounds for years and it’s no more true now than it was then. If you’re leaving a room, get into the habit of turning the light off. Turning the light back on when you return will use less electricity than leaving the light on while you’ve been out of the room.

Myth: Most heat escapes through windows.

Surprisingly, this isn’t the case. But a lot of people believe this to be true. In fact, the majority of the heat disappearing from your premises is escaping through the walls, and any gaps around your windows and doors. A high proportion will also escape through your roof. Your windows account for around 10% of heat loss. It’s why insulation is so important.

Myth: Using a screensaver on your computer saves energy when you’re not around.

Screensavers were one of the first fun things to personalise when you bought a new computer. But a lot of us now realise that keeping the screen on and having a fancy animation actually wastes energy. Go to your computer settings and investigate the power-saving options. You can customise them to help save energy when you’re not using the device.

Myth: Phone and laptop chargers don’t use energy when plugged in if they’re not connected to a device.

Guess what? That’s not true. They do. And just consider how many chargers you have at your place of work – phones, laptops, even cordless power tools. It all adds up. It’s good practice to switch everything off when not in use and also helps extend the life of the chargers themselves.

Myth: Turning up the thermostat heats a room quicker.

If you’re getting the hang of this, you’ll know that’s not true. Say you like to have your office at 20oC. You’ve just started work on a cold day, so you turn on the heating and crank it up to 25o to heat the room quicker. What will happen is it will take the same length of time as it would do normally to reach 20o, but when it reaches 20o it will continue to raise the temperature up to 25o. So, essentially, you’ve achieved nothing other than using unnecessary energy to heat the room warmer than you want it. In a case like this, it’s best to install a programmable thermostat or go ‘smart’ and have a system you can operate from your phone.

Myth: Air source heat pumps don’t work in cold weather.

They can and do. Heat pumps can produce heat when the temperature outside is well below freezing, providing heating and hot water all year round. They also supply more heating and cooling capacity than the amount of electricity that’s needed to run them. Indeed, when compared with traditional oil, electricity or liquid gas, heat pumps are a good choice for businesses that want to reduce their carbon footprint and energy bills. They are also a safer alternative when compared to combustion heating systems, have a good lifespan of around 15 years, and are also relatively low maintenance.

Zero Waste Scotland is a not-for-profit environmental organisation, funded by the Scottish Government and European Regional Development Fund. Find out more at


COP26 webinar

Zero Waste Scotland is hosting a COP26 webinar on 20 October at 12 noon, advising how to motivate your workplace to save energy.

Find out more and book your place here.


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